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CAVENDISH’S GREEN WATCH
Like Springwatch but without Kate Humble or Bill Oddie. We track Cavendish’s hunt for the green jersey, whether he says he’s going for it or not.
Before Milan-San Remo Mark Cavendish played down his chances. Although he didn’t rule out the possibility of winning, he said he was riding for the experience.
He did much the same thing before the Tour. The green jersey, he said, was not the target. Stage wins and reaching Paris were.
After the first road stage of the Tour to Brignoles on Sunday, he may be revising his goals because he’s opened up a big gap on several of the men expected to challenge for the points competition.
Last year, Cavendish won four stages and never got within sight of wearing green because he only scored on one other day – stage three to Nantes. Oscar Freire, the eventual winner, was far more consistent, but only gathered one stage win.
Cavendish knows that to win the green jersey won’t be as simple as matching last year’s feat of wins.
However, after the first serious showdown, he already has a 35-point lead over three of his biggest rivals – Daniele Bennati, Tom Boonen and Oscar Freire, who all failed to score in Brignoles. That is a nice head-start to have.
CAV AND HIS MAJOR RIVALS
35pts Mark Cavendish
30pts Tyler Farrar
26pts Romain Feillu
24pts Thor Hushovd
20pts Gerald Ciolek
11pts Heinrich Haussler
0pts Daniele Bennati, Tom Boonen, Oscar Freire
BRITS IN GREEN?
Cavendish is not the first British rider to wear the green jersey and he’s not the first British rider to lead the points competition. But he is the first British rider to wear the green jersey while leading the points competition. Confused?
Well, Chris Boardman (1994, 1997, 1998) and David Millar (2000) were all presented with the green jersey after winning the first stage of the Tour but they wore the yellow jersey the following day and by the time they lost the race lead, they’d also lost the green jersey.
Boardman (1996), Millar (2003) and Bradley Wiggins (2009) have all worn the green jersey in action while it’s been out ‘on loan’. Boardman and Millar were second in prologues, while Wiggins was third in Saturday’s time trial, but they wore the green jersey because the leader of the points competition was in yellow.
However, Cavendish is the first bona fide British holder of the green jersey, in that he leads the competition and got to wear the jersey.
THE MUSCLES FROM BRUSSELS
Serge Borlée, the bald-headed former policeman who used to be Lance Armstrong’s bodyguard, is still working for Australian Cadel Evans.
Borlée was the imposing presence at Armstrong’s side during his final Tours. Last year, he agreed to work for Silence-Lotto’s leader Evans, even though the Aussie was initially unsure.
Now, with Armstrong back in the bunch, Borlée has stuck with Evans.
RESPECT IS DUE
Belgian rider Jurgen Van de Walle (Quick Step) was the hero of stage two. He crashed hard after 45 kilometres and after a brief examination by the race doctor, carried on his way. Despite the pain he finished in the bunch, but later went to hospital, where it was confirmed he had punctured his right lung and broken his left collarbone. Van de Walle therefore became the first rider to quit the Tour.
EARLY BID FOR LANTERNE ROUGE
FDJ’s Belarussian rider Yauheni Hutarovich is hotly-tipped for a big future, but his first taste of the Tour de France has been a baptism of fire. He was last in the Monaco time trial. On Sunday he crashed and rode in with only Andreas Klier for company, 7-14 down on the bunch. Two stages in, his finishing positions are last and second last.
ALL GOOD FRIENDS NOW
One of the first riders to congratulate Mark Cavendish on his stage victory in Brignoles was Italian champion Filippo Pozzato. The pair don’t get on too well, having traded insults in the press in the past. Pozzato accused Cavendish of hanging onto cars at the Tour of California, Cavendish replied in typically Anglo-Saxon style.
In his book, Boy Racer Cavendish explains that at the Tour of Catalonia a couple of years ago it was wet and slippy and Cavendish locked his brakes up. He was not alone doing that, but Pozzato decided to pick on him. “Amateur, amateur,” he shouted, in Italian.
When Cavendish won the stage, he found Pozzato and retorted: “Not bad for an amateur, am I?”
On another occasion, Cavendish was in a lift. Pozzato walked in. Cavendish walked out, which he did admit was a bit childish.
Now, at least, there is a bit of professional respect.
Just past the finish line is a little stall well stocked with ice cold drinks for the riders to grab.
Niki Terpstra, the Milram rider, approached the stall, jersey zipped to the waist, boiling hot.
“Acqua,” he said.
The man behind the stall offered some alternatives. “Coke, Coke Light, Sprite…?”
“Acqua,” said Terpstra, more insistently.
He then poured the full bottle of water over his head.
At the end of stage two, the numbers for the dope control were posted near the finish. A total of eight riders were tested, and the UCI’s chaperones were busy grabbing them at the finish. The riders requested to give a sample were Mark Cavendish, Fabian Cancellara, Charly Wegelius, Chris Sorensen, Rinaldo Nocentini, Franco Pellizotti, Nicolai Trussov and Linus Gerdemann.
Talking of Gerdemann. His girlfriend was waiting for him at the finish of the stage, wearing a very striking full-length purple gown which would have looked more at home on the catwalk than among the trucks, power cables and electricity generators back-stage at the Tour de France. A t-shirt and shorts would probably have done.
Spare a thought for the team bus drivers. Their life is far from easy. At the finish in Brignoles, the buses were asked to park in a tight side-street. CW watched as the Milram bus tried to get through a gap. He almost got away with it but as he turned the corner the back end of his bus ripped the bumper off a parked car.
A considerable crowd gathered to watch the bus driver try to untangle himself from the car.
To add insult to injury, several of the Milram riders leant out of the window to take pictures on their phones.
If the car driver needs a witness for his insurance claim, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Pro bike riders don’t often hang around outside their team buses. They, quite understandably, head straight for the air-conditioned luxury straight after a stage where they can take put their feet up, take on food and drink, and hide away from the distractions of the outside world.
It’s also a sanctuary from the world’s press desperate for a quote or two. But there is one person you can’t hide from in your bus. And that’s your Mum.
Silence-Lotto’s Matthew Lloyd was spotted hanging around outside his bus in Brignoles, in burning heat, introducing his Mum and Dad, who’d come all the way from Australia, to his team manager. How sweet.
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TOUR DE FRANCE 2009 PHOTOS
Tour de France 2009 on TV: Eurosport and ITV4 schedules
Big names missing from 2009 Tour de France
Tour de France anti-doping measures explained
Brits in the Tours: From Robinson to Cavendish
Cycling Weekly’s rider profiles